Domestic Violence Against Women In Pakistan
The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993) defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life." (UN General Assembly 1993).
It is violence in private life that comprises domestic violence against women. Also called Intimate Partner Abuse and Family Violence, it is a global issue that cuts across all geographic, social, cultural and ethnic boundaries. But it was only in the last decade of the 20th century that it received recognition as a serious public health and human rights issue.
This paper aims to discuss domestic violence against women in Pakistan. It will focus on some specific types of domestic violence prevalent in Pakistan, the factors underlying them and a health and human rights analysis of the issue.
For the purpose of this paper, the term Domestic Violence is used as described in Innocenti Digest ( UNICEF, 2000) to include violence against women by an intimate partner and by other family members, whether this violence takes place within or outside the home.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the sixth most populated country in the world, is in South Asia. Its people and traditions reflect many diverse cultures. It is administratively divided into, four provinces: Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Baluchistan, the federal capital Islamabad and seven Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Pakistan was the first Muslim country to have a woman Prime Minister and presently women hold 21% seats in the National Parliament, but the condition of the ordinary woman living here has remained poor. According to a UNDP report (2011) Pakistan ranks 115th out of a total of 151 countries on the Gender Inequality Index.
The life expectancy at birth for the population is 66 years, infant mortality is 62 per 1000 live births and the maternal mortality is 260 deaths per 100,000 live births ( UNDP 2011).
In addition to the globally prevalent forms of domestic violence , women in Pakistan also suffer from forms of violence carried out in the name of tradition, culture and religion.
Honour killing is an old tradition which involves a male member of the family killing a female relative if she is suspected of tarnishing the family’s honour. In most cases the executor is the husband, the father or a brother( Minallah and Durrani, 2009).
Stove burning is a form of dowry killing prevalent in the province of Punjab, mostly in the urban areas. Married women are burned by the husband or his family as a punishment for not providing a rich dowry, not producing a son, not allowing the husband another wife or as a result of long running disputes.
Acid throwing, particularly on the face, may be committed to avenge refusal of sexual...
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Even in this day and age
Understanding violence against women is as complex as the concept itself that manifests in many ways that may be physical or psychological. The first kind is easy to acknowledge as it can be seen and therefore remedied; the second however is a variety that not many would consider an offence in Pakistani society. Gender discrimination and hegemonic trends in relationships and institutions are still very rigid and unbending as in olden times. The question arises as to why hasn’t society risen from an ignorant state of existence to an exalted one where women are looked at as fellow human beings that can experience an equal degree of happiness, pain, humiliation, anger, etc, instead of gender-specific entities to be categorised or rather sub-categorised as humans of an inferior variety.
In Pakistan, domestic violence is considered a private matter, as it occurs in the family, and therefore not an appropriate focus for assessment or intervention. Women have to face discrimination and violence on a daily basis due to the cultural and religious norms that Pakistani society embraces. According to an estimate, approximately 70 to 90 percent of Pakistani women are subject to domestic violence.Some common types of violence include honour killing, spousal abuse including marital rape, acid attacks and being burned by family members. Spousal abuse is rarely considered a crime socially unless it takes an extreme form of murder or attempted murder, which could range from driving a woman to suicide or engineering an accident.
The scenario clearly reflects that violence against women is an enormous public health and social problem in Pakistan, which has never been appropriately dealt by the government. According to experts, the reason why violence against women is still on the high is that the behaviour of an individual human being is shaped by the social environment. Development is a result of interaction at various levels of social organisation that include personal factors, societal factors where the person lives and cultural factors. Thus, it must be noted that nothing will change until women are seen as other than subservient, compliant victims.
Development is a result of interaction at various levels of social organisation that include personal factors, societal factors where the person lives and cultural factors
It is observed that both perpetration and acceptance of physical and psychological abuse is a conditioned and learned behaviour and it is the social situation that is most important in determining the frequency, form circumstances and target of aggressive actions. Therefore, as long as the cost for being violent does not outweigh the rewards, invariably violence as a method of control will be used. Sets of cultural rules and values guide the behaviours of members of the society such as gender roles assigned to males are masculinity characterised by machismo, bravery and courageousness. Females are expected to be feminine characterised by fragility, timidity, and submission.
Further, traditional practices and attitudes basing on false assumptions of religiosity make it very difficult for a woman to end even a violent relationship. Women tend to believe they are committing a sin by dissolving even an abusive marriage. In addition, the influence of media may also increase the likelihood of violence against women. It becomes apparent by looking in to the interplay of these factors that violence against women in this country may be understood. This understanding then may be used as pathways for change, which may eventually provide substantial improvement in women’s lives.
Intrinsic factors that give rise to violence include personal characteristics like age, education, income, personality influences and acceptance of interpersonal violence. The effects of factors like witnessing marital violence as a child, being abused as a child, absentee or rejecting father on the personality of a person are also considered intrinsic factors. Studies have shown that younger women are more susceptible to experience violence.Also, women whose educational attainment levels are inferior to those of their husbands are more likely to suffer beating and intimidation than those women whose educational attainment levels are equal to or exceed their husbands.
Also, inherited and ingrained personality traits predispose some men to behave in a malicious and aggressive manner towards other people especially women. These habits are deeply ingrained and resistant to change. Violent intimate partners report more depression, lower self-esteem, and more aggression than in non-violent intimate partners. In Pakistan, where awareness and acceptance of mental health problems is limited, this area remains ignored and unaddressed.
Inherited and ingrained personality traits predispose some men to behave in a malicious and aggressive manner towards other people especially women
Role modelling plays a significant role as it has direct impact on learners. As most families in Pakistani cultures are close knit where parents act as role models, if the father beats his wife then his son would beat his wife as well. Also, the context within which the abuse takes place needs to be looked at. Pakistani society is a patriarchal society in which male members who bear the decision-making authority, head the families. Women are usually not included in making decisions and are considered socially and economically dependent on men. Women consider themselves insecure, incomplete, ineffective and inefficient without males. Therefore, the male dominance becomes one of the significant predictor of the violence against women in the country.
Another major factor is marital conflict that leads to an increased number of cases of domestic violence. Majority of the studies around the globe have shown that marital conflict associated with verbal and physical abuse is common in all strata of the society regardless of geographic, cultural, psychosocial and financial differences. The reason of the marital conflict included financial constraints, presence of in-laws, children and absence of a male child.
Historically, in Indo-Pak’s tribal and rural cultures, women were treated as the property of men. Role of woman has been submission, to serve as a commodity and to sacrifice herself for the sake of values determined by men.Women were traded for reconciliation, forced into marriages for political reasons and attaining tribal peace. Also, they were disallowed to marry of their own will and denied legal rights of inheritance. Being killed for the sake of man’s ethics and man-made values is an accepted norm in this part of the globe, even in this day and age.
A woman is still looked at through the prism of a male eye and thus always founding lacking. Change needs to arrive not only at the individual level, but at the societal level so that it changes the entire culture where the status of a woman should be based on humanitarian and Islamic grounds and not on male-developed unfair conventions.
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